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This gleaming, mirror-walled, glass-enclosed cylinder seats 2,743 and the acoustics are phenomenal. If the minimalist look of the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall is somewhat disquieting, given the Beaux Arts look of the rest of the San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center, never mind. Like the symphony itself, the 9,000 pipes of the Ruffati organ that looms behind the stage makes quite a statement.
The Herbst Theatre is part of the War Memorial & Performing Arts Center located across the street from San Francisco's stunning City Hall. Herbst plays host to a plethora of cultural events ranging from lectures and discussions (by the likes of Ricky Jay and Dave Eggers) to full-on rock concerts (by such luminaries as Ryan Adams and Beirut). It features a 928-seat recital hall as well as murals painted by renowned artist Frank Brangwyn for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco.
In 1981, the Orpheum Theatre opened under new management with the hilarious musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Sixteen years later, a massive and privately funded renovation took place at the Orpheum, unveiling an ornate and stunning theater that has become synonymous with elegance in San Francisco. Blockbuster musicals have been housed here, and continues with its tradition of entertaining and inspiring awe in its audiences.
As a key player in the "Best of Broadway" seasons since 1979, the Golden Gate Theatre has hosted show-stopping musicals like A Chorus Line, which re-opened the theater on December 27, 1979. This was followed by Camelot with Richard Burton, Sweeney Todd with Angela Lansbury, My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison, Bette Midler, and Liza Minnelli, Woman of the Year with Lauren Bacall, 42nd Street, Cabaret, Zorba with Anthony Quinn, and Fiddler on the Roof with Topol, among many more. With its grand and complicated past, this theater has survived numerous renovations and uses and has emerged as a house full of theatrical memories.
Located in the historic Mission District, the Victoria Theater, a former vaudeville house, is a 480-seater place considered the oldest theater house in all of San Francisco. Built in 1908, this theater has been screening films for a long time right from locally made movies to film festivals and even concerts. Features include amazing Dolby quality sound and a 35mm video screen. Many international film-makers have used this venue while filming, making it an important landmark. Personalities like Whoopie Goldberg, Bill Irwin, Donald O'Connor and Micheal Moore have made appearances here. This venue can also be rented out for live stage productions and other events.
The Roxie, built long before the multiplex era, is one of San Francisco's last independent cinemas. It programs an eccentric repertory schedule that is a cinema goer's dream. It showcases some rarely seen but fabulous films that were quality-made with not a single marketing campaign in sight. It also booked the controversial documentary Kurt & Courtney when no other theater in the country would touch it. The Roxie also host a number of popular film festivals. A registered non-profit since 2009, this lovely piece of SF heritage is well worth seeking out. Check their website for show times, ticketing information, educational programs, membership details, rentals and more.
The Curran Theatre's "Best of Broadway" series brings the highest quality musical theater productions and award-winning plays to the Bay Area. Over the years, Best of Broadway subscribers have enjoyed everything from the Tony Award-winning play Fences, to the spectacular, historical musical Les Miserables. Not merely a memory or a monument, the Curran is still what it was intended to be: a living piece of history and enjoyment in San Francisco.
The SF Playhouse celebrates its upbeat existence as a superb theater, standing proud at Union Square. The place is renowned as a channel for the creative instincts and skills of promising and established writers, actors and directors. The result leaves the audience spellbound, and they always love every minute of it. The amicability with which the SF Playhouse bonds with its participants and spectators is a commendable quality that makes this place stand a class apart.
This theater has been staging challenging, innovative, culturally diverse, contemporary works since 1967. Sam Shepard was Playwright-In-Residence for many years and the company still stages his works. The theater space is small and well-conceived. With the intimate and informal atmosphere, there isn't a bad seat in the house. The Magic Theatre is a perfect place to catch some great talent.
Constructed as a temporary attraction for the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exhibition, Palace of Fine Arts & Theatre continues to enchant and enhance the city. The original plaster, which made up the monument's exterior, has been gradually replaced with funds raised by the Marina's well-heeled residents who were loath to lose such a graceful part of their landscape. Swans in the adjoining lagoon glide by the soaring ochre-tinted colonnades and the imposing dome rigged with panels of centaurs and warriors engaged in battle over nubile maidens. Those column-top statues of sorrowing maidens turned away from prying eyes are using their tears to water the long-gone oaks that originally stood in the planters that they surround. Stroll inside the dome, clap your hands and marvel at the uncanny acoustics, then enjoy a picnic lunch on one of the park benches scattered to provide an unparalleled view of this gem.
The Balboa Theater is a neighborhood theater that's been divided in two. Each theater shows films that are always interesting, whether art films or general releases. It offers gourmet coffee, and the double features are a deal if you want to catch up on classy recent releases. Voted "Best Neighborhood Theater" by the SF Bay Guardian, it is a true San Francisco staple. See website for showtimes, ticket pricing and more.